Wednesday, November 10, 2010


My weekend birding was more fruitful than I anticipated. Rural roads in and around St. John's are ideal for birding on Saturday or Sunday mornings because very few people are out and about at that time. These conditions coupled with welcome sunshine and warm temps made for a great morning of birding. I could pull off the road and stop to look at any bird activity along the way. It was on Pouch Cove Line that I came across this Dickcissel (a first for me) with a group of Juncos at a feeder located in the front of a house.
When I saw the feeding birds, I stopped and grabbed my binoculars. I could see one different bird among the flock. At first I thought it was a sparrow. Because, at best, I can identify only about four sparrows with any degree of certainty,  I got my camera and struggled to get a shot of this small, sparrow-like bird that was often hidden in the tall grass. When the bird finally raised its head, as shown in the first picture, I knew it wasn't a sparrow, but I didn't know what it was. 
I was hoping for more time to take pictures and watch this bird, but that was not to be. A large flock of European Starlings was sitting on a nearby power line and all at once, they lifted off and flew straight over the top of the feeder. Their motion drove all of the birds from the feeder. I was able to get one quick shot of the Dickcissel and Juncos rushing for cover. They didn't return quickly to the feeder, so I moved on.

When I got home, I began my research to try to ID this bird. There are a lot of birds in the field guides, including images of both genders and immatures. It was a miracle that I was able match my pictures with the pictures in the guide. More and more, I am having more success in identifying the birds, but I always want to seek verification before I share my sightings.

I reviewed the Dickcissel sightings posted on the local Discussion Group. While the Dickcissel is an uncommon visitor to Newfoundland, there have been annual sightings for years. The earliest posting on the group site dates to 1998, which may be when the group started. I can't applaud this forum enough. Bird watchers are one group of collectors that are eager to share their find which makes it much easier for a novice watcher like me to see and learn about so many different species.

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